Photo by Salt Water New England

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Essential Garden Tools

When asked about essential garden tools and the best places to get them, readers have suggested the following:
I may be frugal in a lot of ways, but I have learned that you have to invest in a good pair of loppers and shears. (Bob NOLA)
Felco pruning shears (they even have a left-handed version!). I bought mine at Amazon but that's because I live in rural NC and nobody around had them. I get my heirloom seeds a good hardware or garden store (there are 2 in the town where I work). I still have some garden tools from my husband's grandfather (including a lovely hoe, which I admit I use more to poke a bonfire than I use in my raised bed vegetable gardens). Ergonomic trowel (from a box store) probably one of my favorites but sadly it doesn't last very long. If I could find the new design in high quality construction, I'd be thrilled! (Hoya)
A good pair of gloves with a nice gauntlet is helpful. Saves arm and hand scratches. good pruning shears are a must. (mary anne)
My favorite tools are my Felco 2 pruners, a Smith Hawken telescoping ratchet lopper, and a circle hoe.  (Joyce North)
I ran a small field-grown, perennial nursery from our home during the years 2002-2010. My customers were always asking for recommendations of tools and such. My list is surprisingly small and affordable.
  • Felco Bypass Pruners
  • Felco Bypass Loppers
  • Small “nippers” for delicate trimming.
  • Kitchen string
  • Auger attachment for cordless drill which is perfect for mass planting of bulbs.
  • Deluxe soil knife w/serrated edge, replaces my late father’s hunting knives. Can be found at;
  • Atlas Gloves, the best overall gloves out there. They are machine washable and inexpensive.
  • Heavy duty, leather work gloves for all seasons and available in women’s sizes. Can be found at;
  • Muck shoes, high & low
  • Hoe, edger, and pointed shovel, inherited.
  • Hula Hoe, perfect to maintain inside edging.
  • Spear & Jackson Spade from England. This was my splurge, and well worth it.
  • Good, sturdy wheelbarrow  (Laurie Ann)  
 To escape a sudden downpour at the Chelsea Flower Show last May, my husband and I ducked in to the Sneeboer <> tool tent. We've been gardening for 30 years together and inherited many of my English husband's grandfather's tools -- but had never seen anything like the quality of the Sneeboer, nor their breadth of offerings. Made in the Netherlands, they sell tools here through several distributors and online. I do NOT work for the company, but I would. Stout, heirloom quality equipment. The hand trowel I bought that day (the only piece I could fit in my luggage) stands up to the ubiquitous "Connecticut Potato" better than anything else we've ever used. As our inferior quality pieces wear out, we will be replacing them with Sneeboer tools. Can't wait.  (Flatlander)
I have two garden tools I go to again and again - an old hand-held weeding fork/claw made by Snow & Nealley (a once-great Maine tool company which has recently been bought by some Amish people in Smyrna, Maine, so perhaps they will start making other tools again besides just axes...?), and a small garden hoe I bought at a yard sale. The hoe is old and has a forged head and a long lightweight wooden handle - it's a total pleasure to use. I also forgo wheelbarrows and garden carts and just use a tarp instead. Toss the weeds on it, then drag the whole thing back to the compost pile. I'd wholeheartedly recommend Fedco for seeds, plants, and tools - - they really know their stuff and their great annual catalogs have much more. (Sarah Faragher)
My favorite "tool" is my Ford 2610 tractor aka "Babe, the Blue Ox," which I acquired two years ago and which may see hard use in the coming months. Our meadows have been farmed for years by locals eager for extra space to grow hay, buckwheat, cattle corn, even pumpkins until the last fellow, a wonderful organic farmer growing a variety of vegetables, went belly up for lack of customers. Now the onus is on me and my Ford Tractor unless I can find a new farmer who would like to use the land to grow crops. This hope seems difficult to fulfill in an area where farmers with a need for a little extra land are becoming scarcer every year. (Hearthstone Farm)
Rogue Hoe Company makes a variety of excellent hoes and rakes, including a hoe-rake combo with a long handle. I have a Cutco pruner and hand tools. These, along with a pointed shovel, get the job done for my big vegetable garden and borders.  (Goldilocks)
A good knife.  For me, the best gardening knife I have found is a Spyderco Tasman - a serrated, rustproof hawkbill blade with a FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) handle.  The serrated hawkbill blade laughs at weeds, vines, and small branches - while opening any bag or burlap rootball covering with ease. It is such a natural extension to your hand and I am lost outside without it. (Tim_McD)
Catmint, Phlox, Peonies, Sedum, More Catmint, Unknown Daisies, Butterfly Bush, Irises, and Lilies.


  1. One who is adept with either a circle or a hula aka stirrup hoe can easily maintain a weed free garden. It is a surprisingly underknown but essential tool.

  2. Greatest tool for a vegetable garden and several thousand convicts at Huntsville and Angola will agree, a forged eye hoe. I have three in my shed.

  3. These are all really informative lists. Three of the tools that I rely upon frequently, in addition to several of those on Laurie Ann's list, are (1) the cobrahead ( for weeding in tight spaces (I prefer the long handled version as I'm usually working on a slope and it saves my back), (2) the heart spade from Red Pig tools (, which is great for breaking up clay and hard pan during planting, and (3) a Cape Cod weeder, again from Red Pig ( All of these are made in the US, and are very high quality.

    What surprised me when buying foreign-made garden tools like hoes from a big box store is that they are unusable without about 1 hour with a sharp file to give them a useful edge. I can't decide if this is an issue of poor supplier quality or fear of product liability litigation by the big box store. Either way, it's slightly annoying. I did not have this problem with any of the tools mentioned above; all arrived with an edge, ready to use in the garden.